8 Ways You Can Live a More Environmentally Sustainable Life


Photo: View of the Marathon Salt Lake Refinery from West

Ceci Davis, Assistant Editor

The change in climate has prompted anxiety across the globe. The daunting reality that the Earth will never return to the state it once was in is the alarming truth that penetrates our minds. It is difficult to take action when our impact is so small compared to the large corporations that are the large contributors to climate change, such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Shell. So on a grand scale, you can be politically active, ensuring that people in power make changes and regulate these large corporations. You can also participate in protests and strikes to use your voice. However, it can be overwhelming to fight something so colossal or even know where to start. Lowing your green footprint may seem as though it will make a trivial impact, but doing what you can and helping others do the same, could begin to make a mark. Here are 8 simple things you can change in your lifestyle to help combat climate change.

First, it is important to note that it may not be possible for everyone to do everything on the following list. These are simply examples of things that will help. With differing socio-economic groups, housing circumstances, family dynamics, health issues, etc, come different capabilities. It is not always in our control, so simply find a few things on this list you feel it would be possible for you to achieve.

1. To begin with, aim to consume fewer animal products, and if possible become vegetarian or vegan. Raising livestock takes 8 times more energy than growing plant-based proteins. It also takes an immense amount of land – about 30% of all ice-free surfaces on earth are currently being used to raise or grow food for livestock. Raising livestock also weakens and erodes the soil. This is caused by the mass deforestation that supporting livestock results in, and deforestation contributes to climate change and loss in biodiversity. A lot of food grown around the world is not used to feed humans, for example, more than half of the grain grown in the US is used to feed livestock and around 70 trillion tons of water goes to livestock each year. It takes 100 to 200 times more water to produce a pound of beef than it does to raise a pound of plant-based food, so cutting down on just 1 kilo of beef can save 50,000 liters of water. Not only does livestock take such a massive amount of water to raise, but it is also among the biggest polluters of clean water.

  2. While on the topic of food, if possible, eat local/grow some of your own food. This reduces carbon emissions because the food you eat does not have to be transported nearly as far. However, just because something is grown locally, does not make it better for the environment, there are many factors that play into how green the food really is. For example, the use of certain harmful fertilizers and pesticides can emit a great deal of greenhouse gasses. To avoid this, if possible, grow your own produce. However, if you cannot change what food you buy or you cannot grow your own, you can try to waste less food and if you have access to a yard, start a compost pile.

3. Attempt to cut back on your plastic use. You can do this by using reusable bags and containers and avoiding the use of plastic bags at stores or other unnecessary plastic. You can get reusable products at Target, Walmart, and The Container Store. Around the world, about 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year, and a lot of that plastic ends up in our oceans. Plastic never really disappears, it simply gets broken into smaller parts and as it does this it releases toxins into the soil and air. Creating plastic materials takes a large amount of fossil fuels, which are emitted into the air.

4. Figure out if there is a recycling system implemented in your neighborhood and set aside a bin for recycled goods. Recycling reduces greenhouse gasses and water and air pollution, as well as conserves energy and natural resources. It also reduces the amount of waste that is put into landfills.

5. Aim to not support fast fashion, which is a large contributor to climate change. When possible, buy second-hand clothing from thrift stores or flea markets. Often thrift stores such as Goodwill, Deseret Industries, and Savers will have cheap clothing in good condition. Find ways to reuse old pieces of clothing to make it into something new rather than discarding it. Fast fashion is responsible for about 10% of carbon emissions each year. It takes massive amounts of energy to produce the clothing that is soon deposited in landfills. Fast fashion also is an extremely large polluter of fresh water because of the toxic dyes used for the clothing.

6. To preserve energy, turn off lights when leaving a room and if possible switch to LED light bulbs or solar power. You can also save energy in your house by limiting your use of hot water, so try to take shorter and/or cold showers. It is important to preserve energy because most of the energy used today is powered by coal, which emits more carbon than any other fossil fuel. Another thing to do around your house is to use washable dish towels and rags rather than paper towels and other one-time use products.

7. Take public transportation as much as possible. Walking, riding a bike, or taking a train or bus can significantly cut down on your carbon footprint by limiting the amount of fossil fuels emitted into the air. The whole month of February is free fair, so even in this month alone, you can travel around Salt Lake without cost.

8. Talking with your friends, family, and peers can also help. People are often unaware of what they can do, or unaware of how serious this crisis we are facing really is. By spreading awareness of the issue and what to do on a personal level, you are creating change.

Once again, it may not be possible to do everything on this list, or at least to do it consistently, however, but doing what you can, even on a small scale, can make an impact.